By Ed Coleman
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The Mets have reached a critical juncture in their season, and how they respond over the next two weeks could go a long way in determining how long they remain in the mix in the tough National League East.
The Mets have lost six of their last seven, and are now 5-8 in this stretch of 25 games -- that's eight straight series -- against teams with winning records. Still to come: three in Tampa Bay, and then Cincinnati, Baltimore and the Yankees again at Citi Field.
They're having trouble offensively, especially against left-handed starters. The difference in hitting against righties (.258) as opposed to lefties (.247) as a team is not stark, but their record against righty starters (25-14) as opposed to lefty starters (7-15) certainly is. And they have not been able to add on or tack on runs during a game, which has been a major problem.
Look no further than Sunday's loss to the Yankees. The Mets scored three runs in the second against a lefty starter (Andy Pettitte), then did not score again until they were forced to tie the game in the ninth before losing on Russell Martin's home run surrendered by the bullpen (Jon Rauch). Manager Terry Collins knew after the second inning that his club would probably be in trouble again.
By the way, the Mets will face a pretty good lefty starter on Wednesday in Tampa in David Price -- the only consolation is that he will be opposed by R.A. Dickey, he of the 9-1 record this season.
The other problem offensively -- outside of Ike Davis, Jason Bay, etc. -- is run differential. The Mets have scored 262 runs and have let up 281. That's a minus-19 run differential for a team that's three games over .500 (32-29). That usually does not compute, and what it means is that if the run differential continues to be negative at the same level or greater, the record will obviously take a turn for the worse.
The bullpen has been a disaster. The Mets have 13 blown saves -- most in the majors. They have a 5.55 ERA -- worst in the majors. It can only get better, I think and hope. Looking for help? Jenrry Mejia has completed his starting assignments (6) and is now shifted to the bullpen and should be ready in a couple of weeks. Fernando Cabrera is 14 for 14 in save opportunities at Triple-A Buffalo. But Elvin Ramirez was lights out at Buffalo and look what's happened to him at the major league level (13.50 ERA).
Who knows. Hope for the best.
Ultimately, this is a team that has a very small margin for error, and they have committed way too many errors to survive. They simply can't afford to give the opposition extra outs. A week ago Sunday, they beat St. Louis easily but committed two errors in that game. Over the next three days, they lost to the Cardinals and then twice to the Nationals and made six errors.
The Mets have compiled 49 errors - second most in the NL to San Francisco's 56. They have the fourth-most in all of baseball. Only Tampa Bay and Baltimore (interestingly enough the Mets' next two opponents in interleague play) have committed more in the AL.
Collins knows this has to change -- or it's a recipe for failure.
This team does not give up. Their mettle will be tested during this next stretch, but their leader, David Wright, feels they will come through it intact despite the lost weekend at the Stadium in the Bronx.
C U soon
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